Do You Really Want to Be a Thought Leader?

In a bit of an “Ah-Ha!” moment recently, it struck me that one of the most common content obstacles I see marketers wrestling with is fear. Not fear of heights or spiders, but rather of disseminating content that steps on toes or frames a discussion in a different—perhaps even controversial—way.


The problem with that fear is that it flies directly in the face of what many businesses want out of their blog content—the always coveted “thought leader” status. The inclination to play it safe on your blog is certainly understandable, as no marketer wants to post a piece that turns consumers off or hurts business in any way. But the harsh reality is that a completely safe approach won’t ever make you a thought leader. A huge part of a successful blog strategy is taking calculated risks, and by definition, sometimes those risks will fizzle.

For instance, let’s say you want to blog about a topic you think your entire industry is thinking about but not discussing out loud for fear that it might be taboo. Maybe you work in retail and want to blog about data breaches or are in the newspaper business and want to discuss declining circulation. These are topics some marketers might consider “too negative,” but they are actually important trends that need to be addressed. Pretending industry challenges don’t exist doesn’t make them disappear; but offering original commentary on these issues helps separate you from the competition.

Now, say you go with it and craft the “controversial” post and put it up for all to see. You wait a few hours before re-visiting the blog, hoping for a sea of impassioned reaction. Unfortunately, the comment section you thought would be overflowing is still a blank canvas. Maybe the topic was a little too controversial for your peers to join in, or maybe you’ve realized that nobody was talking about your topic because … well …no one was thinking about it.

Sure it’s disappointing that you didn’t get the traffic you hoped for, but in blogging as in life, a willingness to fail is a requirement to succeed. You took a calculated risk, and even if it didn’t pan out this time that’s not to say your next blog won’t go viral like LinkedIn’s ‘8 Millennials’ Traits You Should Know About Before You Hire Them,’ which tackled the often awkward subject of inter-generational relations in the workplace.

Of course, I’m not suggesting you spice up your blog by letting your high school intern run it for the summer with no oversight. Calculated risks are born of careful planning and analysis, as are successful blog strategies. But the only way to truly transform your site from “run-of-the-mill” to “must-read destination” is to be a little unconventional, whether that means changing your style or onboarding a content strategy vendor to provide a fresh perspective.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” And although she probably wasn’t talking about blogging, her advice is right on the money.